Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Skaters Profiled in Our Books

One of Sporting Chance Press's authors is Nicolette House, an accomplished figure skater who has competed nationally and internationally in ice dancing. Her book is a middle grade novel called Maddie Takes the Ice that is very popular with young girls and is an America's Battle of the Books selection for 2011. "Maddie" has the right mix of drama and fun to make it a great read for ages 8-12. Ms. House is also a wonderful role model for young girls. She presents at libraries and schools discussing diet, training, competition, family and figure skating. Her mother Ilona was also a professional figure skater and is a popular coach in the Chicago area.

Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout has a skating connection as well. One of the "devoted and devout" people discussed is Nancy Swider Peltz; also mentioned in the book is her daughter, Nancy Swider Peltz, Jr.

Nancy, "the elder," grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and is a personal friend of the author. She made four U.S. Olympic Speedskating teams (1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988)--no other U.S. speedskater had done that. Nancy traveled extensively and competed internationally over two decades. She is now an accomplished coach.

Nancy's daughter, Nancy Jr., is an exceptional athlete as well and equally inspiring. Nancy Swider Peltz, Jr., is an olympic speedskater like her mom. Nancy, "the younger," competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was coached by her mom. She placed 9th in the 3000 M race, the highest of all U.S. competitors. Nancy Sr. serves as Nancy Jr.'s trainer working to prepare her daughter for the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014.

For top athletes, there are many competitions that stand out in their minds as significant. For the amateur fan, we tend to put more emphasis on the Olympic Games. It is possible of course, for an athlete to win every major event in a span of several years, to be known as the best in her sport and then to fall short in the Olympics. There are others who may never win the top prize in national or (non-Olympic) international competitions and then peak right at the Olympic Games and take the Gold. It's that kind of drama that in part attracts fans to the Olympic Games.

In Nicolette's book, Maddie Takes the Ice, readers read about how a competitive skater must have excellent habits. A skater must eat right, get plenty of sleep and train for hours a day. As a student, the skater must also use any time outside of skating for homework and other responsibilities. What is normally sacrificed is TV time and to some extent hanging out with friends.

The Athlete must be willing to put in extraordinary effort to move up to competitive skating. At some level the athlete makes a pact with herself. "This is all worth it because my goal is very important to me--it's crucial." When an athlete no longer commits to her goal, the competitive edge is lost. "Maddie" uncovers a lot of life lessons, but takes great pains not to bore kids with lectures.

In Maddie Takes the Ice, the main character is committed to a goal, but she gets sidetracked by keeping too much inside herself. She decides to hide things from her mother and then she starts to falls apart. Things come back together for her once she opens up to her mom. The book offers a great message for kids and I am very happy to be associated with it. No doubt, it reflects a lot of things that the author and fellow skaters have experienced.
Kids will be smarter after reading it.

In Sports and Faith, there are many stories of people who have made great sacrifices for goals as well. Sports and Faith is about how sports and faith come together in many athletes' lives. Lessons in this book are spiritual ones. In some cases, like in Father John Smyth's, Father Joe Freedy's and the Reverend "Coach" Wayne Gordon's, featured in the book, all athletic pursuits are put aside for a "higher calling." The goal changes for these people. In other cases, McCaskey looks at other athletes who pursued their sports ambitions, but came to an understanding that the ultimate result is in someone else's hands.

Maddie Takes the Ice is a great book for young girls. It entertains and keep readers turning pages while presenting real life wisdom. Kids are inspired to pursue their goals in healthy ways.

Sports and Faith offers inspirational stories that focus on the the role of faith in life. McCaskey shows that for many top athletes sports and faith are not mutually exclusive, rather they are often part and parcel of our human makeup.

Maddie Takes the Ice and Sports and Faith, two books from Sporting Chance Press that we are proud to publish.

Note: Top image is Nicolette House in Sun Valley. Second image is Nancy Swider Peltz, Jr. at Vancouver Olympics. Nicolette House and her skating partner can be seen in various skating shows. See Ice Talent Inc. for the latest on her career. View a montage of Nicolette House and her skating partner, Aidas Reklys here.

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